The wait was over and I was finally boarding a plane bound for DFW airport. As we took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, I remembered seeing the same beautiful colors I saw when we first landed from overseas. After long months of seeing nothing but dry desert wasteland, I saw the beautiful blue water and green grass and trees. But the most beautiful colors in my eyes were seen from our bus windows as thousands of residents lined our bus route to welcome us home. I saw them waving the American flags. I saw the yellow ribbons everywhere. I saw overwhelming support that I had never seen before in my life. It was a great feeling and a proud time to be an American. The next morning I saw it covered in the local newspaper and kept a copy of it. Notice the date in the top left corner? April 16th, one day after my April 15th answered prayer.
When our plane landed at DFW, the pilot came over the intercom and announced that all civilian passengers would be exiting the plane first. Apparently there were quite a few people gathered at our terminal gate to welcome us home. I had no idea what we were about to witness when we turned the corner and saw for the first time how many people had gathered to welcome us home. Other than friends and family members, there were news crews as well as other curious bystanders that wanted to witness this special homecoming.
There was a glass wall that separated everyone from us as we came out of the boarding bridge. I saw people screaming as we were exiting the plane one by one. It was crazy! It was as if we were rock stars or something.
As I approached the wall, I saw my family waving and yelling at me. It was very loud. I finally made my way over to them and one by one, got a great big hug from everyone. I don't even know who was taking these pictures, but I'm including a few of them here.
My pen pal from Mesquite, Zachary, was there with his mother. He was holding a "Welcome Home Richard Lovell" sign and had confetti in his hands, but he forgot to throw it because he was so excited. I remember the first time I made eye contact with him. He looked at me like I was the most famous person in the world. I had a gift for him. It was a Marine Corps t-shirt. His mom later told me that he wore it three days straight and even slept in it. He about cried when his mom made him take it off in order to wash it for him.
It was certainly a crazy but amazing day. I was finally home, safe and sound. To say it was good to be back is certainly an understatement. Many people consider the sacrifice that the service men and women make, but their families go through an awful lot too. It was not only a homecoming for us, but the realization that it was over for them.
Although you will always have anti-war protestors, the support for troops was at an all time high. It's a shame that our Vietnam vets did not have that kind of support.
We got our bags and then boarded charter busses to go to a homecoming celebration that was waiting for us at the Dallas naval Air Station (which was actually in Grand Prairie by the way). The media followed us there, of course, along with our families. Patrice and Zachary were there too, and Zachary was already wearing his new shirt.
I remember being one of several Marines interviewed by Channel 8's John McCaa and saw it air later that day on the news. Afterward we decided that we all needed to go somewhere for lunch. They let me pick where ever I wanted to go to. I said, "Well, I promised to take Ashley and David to Showbiz Pizza, so why not there?" So we went to Showbiz.
Once we were at Showbiz, we noticed that Patrice and Zachary had not made it there yet. I was then told by an employee that I had a phone call. It was Patrice. She said that their car broke down and wouldn't be able to join us. I asked if she needed any help, but she said she had help on the way. She also said that Zachary was torn up about it because he was afraid he wouldn't see me again. I told her to put him on the phone. I heard him tearfully say, "Hello?" I then reassured him that we would see a lot of each other because we were now friends and to not worry about not being with us at Showbiz. I promised him a day that just the two of us would go out for pizza, movie, a ball game, whatever we wanted to do. It made him feel a lot better. Patrice then told me that they were invited to my homecoming party at James and Robin's house and would see me there.
It was a joyous occasion, but it would not be long before the realization would kick in: The world no longer looked or felt normal.
“The world he had left was not ready for his return, or rather,
he was not ready to return to the world he had left.” ― Matthew J. Hefti